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The story of Judgement Cliff

BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment

Monday, May 13, 2013


The story of Judgement Cliff BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment Monday, May

The looming mountain high above the Mount Sinai community in St Thomas, at first glance, appears to be just like several others overlooking this eastern parish.

But a second look and a nearby monument add some validity to the story passed down through generations in this farming community and which residents readily recount to curious passers-by.

The area, commonly referred to as Judgement Cliff, got its name from the dramatic story of how an entire community was wiped out during a massive earthquake.

According to the story, which has been re-told to even the youngest of residents, only a man and his bull were saved when the mountain-side community caved in, destroying homes and killing all the residents.

"Me hear seh is a man and his bull cow and a dog save because the bull run away and the man and the dog go fi look fi him and that is why dem wasn't dere at the time," quipped a female resident.

Yet another resident had another version to the story as he said the community was wiped out because of its immoral ways.

"Me hear seh it was a Sodom and Gomorra up dere and dat is why the community wipe out," said Linford Brown, who grew up in Mount Sinai, which adjoins the Llandewey community.

Another resident, Sylvester Fearon, said he was not born in that community but first heard the story when he moved there in 1955.

"Me no born here, but from me come here as a young man me hear di story bout Judgement Cliff and me have reason fi believe the story ah true," said 77-year-old Fearon, as he took the Jamaica Observer North East team to view a monument which was placed there in 1967 by the Jamaican Historical Society.

The monument, now covered with overgrown shrubs, notes that the land slipped during the great earthquake of 1692, burying a plantation and all who lived on it.

According to Fearon, no one is brave enough to again set up residence at Judgement Cliff, although a number of persons once had very thriving farms there.

"First time, farmers use to farm them big ground over there with everything because the soil good, but these young boys no waan farm nothing no more," he said.

Fearon said he used to visit Judgement Cliff regularly but hardly goes there now as it has become more difficult for him to traverse the rough terrain.

"We haffi cross ah river fi go over dere and so that is why nobody nuh go back up dere go live," Fearon said, adding that he has reason to believe the story that there was some massive soil erosion on the mountain side.

"There is a gully on one side and when you look up at the top you can see where all this land move from the back come to the front," he said.

A group of archaeologists, according to Fearon, visited the Mount Sinai community five to six years ago and made the trek to Judgement Cliff.

"When dem come down dem tell we seh under there (the mountain) still hollow and dem believe it can slide again," he said, adding that "we no hear nutten more since den."

But while the area is not inhabited by any humans just now, Fearon is convinced that there are other forces existing there.

"Sometimes you over there and you hear someone walking across but even if ghost live over deh dem caan do me nutten because me alive," he joked.

Meanwhile, the story does not seem so far-fetched to him, for more than one reason, as he pointed to what natural disasters can do. Hurricane Ivan, he said, destroyed the roof of the community centre.

"Me tell you say di breeze just liff off the roof clean clean, like when you tek a hat off you head, and carry it over deh so," he said.

Since then, the residents, he said, have been without a community centre, which once housed a skills training programme for the many unemployed persons there.

"This playfield was one of the second best in St Thomas as people woulda come from all over, but since the centre damage it turn into animal pasture," he said.

According to Fearon, visitors used to make regular trips to the community to take pictures of Judgement Cliff but not many people come by these days.

This, he said, is unfortunate, given that the area is underdeveloped and has very little employment opportunities for residents.

"This a hard area fi mek money because all people haffi do fi meck a living is to pack coal kiln and sometime we get buyer fi it and other times it stay till the bag rotten off it," he said.